TV journalist on Mihkelson case: 'Experts' opinions are what matter'

Mihkel Kärmas
Mihkel Kärmas Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

TV journalist Mihkel Kärmas, who presents ETV investigative news show "Pealtnägija," said, in relation to stories published about MP Marko Mihkelson (Reform), that the opinions which really matter are those of the experts, who are most familiar with the details of the case.

Allegations that politician Marko Mihkelson had taken inappropriate photos of children reached all of Estonia's major media outlets a few years ago. However, they were not published at the time, with several outlets citing the need to protect the children's interests, as well as decisions made by the police and court not to instigate any proceedings related to the matter.

Daily Postimees has justified its decision to publish the story now, on the grounds that Mihkelson could have become a victim of blackmail over the pictures.

According to Mihkel Kärmas, materials related to the child custody dispute case, including the pictures in question, reached the editorial offices of ETV's Pealtnägija two years ago.

"We looked into it, talked to various sources, consulted with the editorial team and decided that we would not publish the story, at least not at that time. All of this is set in the context of a dispute over child custody rights. In fact, in this custody case too, the court ruled that the children were not in any danger in this family. A number of experts also looked at the material and saw no clear signs of abuse," explained Kärmas.

After Pealtnägija opted not to pursue the story, the parties on the opposing side of the dispute to Mihkelson, approached other news outlets.

The editors of Delfi and Eesti Päevaleht started to investigate the matter last fall, also reaching the conclusion that the story could not be published.

"(There were) two big reasons," said Urmo Soonvald, editor-in-chief of Delfi and Eesti Päevaleht. "One was that this whole thing is about children. We are trying to correct things here and talk about defense and foreign policy, as well as some other values, but the focus (of the story) was, is and, I fear, will remain on the children," he explained.

"And the second reason was, that the head of the children's department of the northern prefecture (of the Police and Border Guard Board – ed.) clearly stated, that there was nothing in these pictures worth initiating a case over," said Soonvald.

Mihkel Kärmas, who has seen the pictures that caused the scandal, says it should be left up to the experts to make a judgement and does not regret Pealtnägija's decision to drop the story two years ago.

"For those who criticize and talk about some kind of cover up, I would like to remind them that journalists are often aware of sensitive, even salacious information about the pasts of these very same critics, (however it is not published) because a) there is no public interest or b) there is no evidence," Kärmas said.

"What matters is the opinions of the experts. Let me say that again - the courts have looked at these cases during two separate proceedings, the experts have looked at them repeatedly and the police have looked at them in the course of possible criminal proceedings. It does not matter what I think. All the specialists, whose jobs it is to assess these materials, have said that this does not add up to a case," Kärmas said.

On Friday evening, this view was seconded by representatives of the police. "Not all pictures where a child is naked are prohibited. In this case, the police established that the images were neither pornographic nor erotic, therefore no proceedings were initiated".

On Thursday, Estonian media outlets Postimees and Eesti Päevalaht both reported that Marko Mihkelson, chair of the Riigikogu's Foreign Affairs Committee, had taken inappropriate pictures of a minor. According to Mihkelson, the incident is connected to a family dispute over the custody of children.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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